TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie gave a horrific example of someone allegedly committing new crimes Wednesday as he continued to ramp up pressure on lawmakers to makes changes to the state’s bail system.
During a statement he gave in his office in Trenton on Wednesday, Christie talked about a Hamilton man who was free on bail this month when he was accused of taking part in a Trenton home invasion and pointing a gun at an 8-month-old baby.
That crime may not have happened if the bail system was remade, Christie said.
The changes have become a top priority for the Republican governor, who is reminding Democratic lawmakers that some key mayors and community activists are standing with him on the issue. Some of those leaders– including the mayors of Camden and Trenton, representatives from anti-crime groups and the New Jersey branch of the Drug Policy Alliance– appeared with Christie on Wednesday. He also pointed out that frequent critics including the state branches of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union support a bail overhaul.
“How can we continue to allow a system to exist that fails our poor, that fails those who pose no risk to our communities and that fails our citizens because were allowing dangerous people to walk free just because they can afford to?” Christie said Wednesday. “It’s not a fair system, it’s not a system that makes sense, it’s not a system that works for people who we are supposed to be protecting.”
On Tuesday, Christie announced a special session for the Legislature for Thursday.
Lawmakers will be required to come to Trenton, and Christie will give a speech trying to rally support for an amendment to the state constitution and an accompanying law aimed at keeping violent suspects behind bars as they await trial while letting those charged with lower-level crimes go free even with charges pending if they do not have money to make bail.
The changes would not be fully in place until 2017 if they’re adopted. But Christie and advocacy groups that support the overhaul want action quickly.
The only way to land the constitutional amendment on the ballot this year would be for both chambers of the Legislature to take action by Monday.
The state Senate already has scheduled votes for the amendment and the law for Thursday.
The Assembly has not taken such a step.
In a statement Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Democrat, said he agrees that the bail system should be changed. “But I also expect a constructive dialogue,” Prieto said. “I want to get this done, but each and every member of the Assembly — duly elected representatives of the people of New Jersey — deserves to get their questions answered and concerns heard on this important issue.”
At his event on Wednesday, Christie discussed a handful of people who were charged with crimes or were shot while free on bail. He said he wanted lawmakers to consider those cases.
“I hope they will particularly think about that family here in Trenton safely in their home having someone out on bail invade their home, put a gun to their 8-month-old child, and threaten to put that child in the oven if all of their demands are not met,” Christie said. “This is a result of a broken system.”
The case he was referring to involved two men charged with robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, weapons offences and child endangerment after they allegedly invaded a home where three adult women, the baby and a boy were, and took a tablet computer, $200 and handbags. One of the men, McGhore Jean, 25, of Hamilton, was released from jail after he posted bail in April 2013 for charges including robbery.
He is now being held on bail of $200,000.
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